Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Brandywine Pink Has Us "In The Pink!" - Heirloom Tomato Journal

One of the seed packs brought back from Shirley Meniece was from Linda McLaughlin of North Country GC of LI.  The seeds were Organic Heirloom Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum).  The variety is 'Brandywine Pink.'  The packet was beautifully labeled with instructions and stated "keep cold in packet 2-3 months".  So on my return home, into the fridge they went.  I almost forgot about them as they were in the very back of the shelf in a small zip loc baggie.

We had already completed our first planting workshop.  I decided to give these to my sister who is a wonderful gardener living in downtown Charleston.  I will call her Artful Sprout.  By profession she is a beautiful artist - water colors and oils - very close-up Georgia O'Keeffe type painting but yet very different:  "Monumental patterns and textures, evocative coloring in organic form, challenging the human ability to see and comprehend nature". 

Artful Sprout loves gardening and "had" an empty lot beside her home.  The lot is now home to a lovely flower and vegetable garden with many rooms.  If you ever visit Charleston during FestivALL her home is on the East End Garden Tour.  She starts most of her seeds in her basement under grow lights.  Extra plants are sold during the East End Yard Sale which is always held the Saturday before Mother's Day.

I asked her if she would join us in journaling. "Certainly!" said she. 

And so, today, the seeds were returned to me.  Now they are 6" high beautiful tomato plants waiting to find a home in committee member's gardens.  There are enough for several committee members to share and grow and add to this journal.  Thus, our joint journal.  Thank you, Linda, for the seeds and it is our hope to return some to Seed Share.  Thank you Artful Sprout for your expertise in getting our seeds going.

Brandywine Pink is listed by Burpee as dating back to 1885 and is the heirloom tomato standard. "One taste and you'll be enchanted by its superb flavor and luscious shade of red-pink. The large, beefsteak-shaped fruits grow on unusually upright, potato-leaved plants. The fruits set one or two per cluster and ripen late—and are worth the wait. Brandywine's qualities really shine when it develops an incredible fine, sweet flavor."  All of the reviews were favorable.  A few growers stated low yield but said the taste made up for it! 

Product Details: A late season, indeterminate tomato.  85 days until maturity.  Takes full sun and grows 40-48".  Best in zones 3-9.  Not the most prolific, so don't depend on it as your only tomato for the season!

How to Harvest Heirloom Tomato Seeds (Also look on the WV63 page for additional instructions).

March 22-April 23 are seeds grown at Artful Sprout's house
March 22, 2014
Planted 20 seeds in 2" pots, 1/2" deep.  Miracle Grow moisture control potting mix under grow lights @ approximately 8" above the pots.

March 30, 2014
Germination of 15/20 seeds.  75% germination.

April 8, 2014
Transplanted to 3" pots after the second leaves appear.

April 18, 2014
Plants are now 4" high.  Raised the lights to 12".

April 23, 2014
Kept a few plants and returned a flat full of plants to WV Sprout to share with the other Sprouts.

More soon - aren't they beautiful!

Heirloom 'Brandywine Pink'
Started March 22.  Photo taken April 23.

The first part of this journal was posted by WV Sprout.  Plants will be distributed to other members soon and put into the ground after May 10.  Hopefully many committee members will add to this journal below with their progress and photos!  Horsey Sprout has already volunteered to help.

April 30, 2014 (WV Sprout)
Well, I know I am rushing it but going to be away for a few days so put my plants out a few days ago.  They are doing well despite a couple of hard storms.  Am trying some new tomato cages.  I have carefully checked the long range report and it looks like the coolest evening we are going to have is above 40, so keeping my fingers crossed. 
Brandywine Pink settling in.
Notice my deer repellent soaked tube sock in the background. 
Hopefully enough diversion with cages of various heights to discourage
the deer.

May 24, 2014 (WV Sprout)
My Brandywine Pinks are starting to add growth quickly.  The photo below shows the same plant as above a little over 3 weeks later.  It was evidently very hot while I was on vacation, then a late frost warning and the plants were given overnight protection.  Now back to a gorgeous late spring - cool evenings and sunshiny days.  Starting to taste those tomatoes!
Brandywine Pink on May 24, 2014

 May 30, 2014 (Artful Sprout)
Artful Sprout has a tomato!  And lots of blossoms.  She lives in downtown Charleston with rich riverbed soil and lots of sunshine.  How about the rest of you?  Anything showing?
The first tomato appears!
June 21, 2014 (Artful Sprout)
Visited Artful Sprout's garden today.  You should see her plants!  Big and full of tomatoes. Mine are catching up quickly.   If we measured success by how big the plant is this one would win first place.  They are fun to watch as they grow so fast.  Can taste the tomatoes already.

Artful Sprout's Brandywine pink.
Tomato from Artful Sprout

WV Sprouts plant is already topping the tomato cage.
I bought some stackable tomato cages and so will add the second level tomorrow.
July 7, 2014 (Artful Sprout)
Ripe tomatoes!  Artful sprout has the first that I know of.  She writes:  "One plant is now 63" high, we have three ripe tomatoes. I sent a photo of the second and third...first one was overripe when we got home from a weekend away - picked on July 1 however by my daughter....probably 5" across and 1 LB!!! We ate it before I remembered to photo!!!! These two are about 4". weigh 9 and 11 ounces each"

Look at the size of her plants!  Quite high and lovely.
Close up of the developing tomatoes.
The reward!  I would venture to say they are no longer sitting on the windowsill!

July 21, 2014 (WV Sprout)
I am home from the beach and look what awaited me - see photo below!  Can't wait for dinner tonight.  They look delicious.   Will let you know how they taste.  I may even make a tomato sandwich for lunch.  The four tomatoes on the left (plus there was a 5th one that I gave away to a friend) are the Brandywine Pink.  The two on the right are ones I bought at our local market this spring - a plum variety called Amish Paste as I love plum varieties.  These are heirlooms also and have a great reputation.  So I will add these to the list to seed save and send seeds back to Shirley Meniece in late September.  All of my plants are loaded with tomatoes so no more buying for the summer!
4 Brandywine Pinks on the left, 2 Amish Paste on the right

Here is my sliced Brandywine Pink - with a little JQ Dickinson
salt to top it off.  Read below about the revival of a centuries old
salt maker in Malden, WV

JQ Dickinson Saltworks:  Lewis Payne and his sister Nancy Bruns "have come together to revive our 200-year-old family trade in Malden, West Virginia, and once again produce salt for our local communities and beyond. With our love of the land and our shared culinary passion, we have worked to produce a rare, small-batch table salt, harvested from the ancient Iapetus Ocean trapped underneath the mountains of Appalachia.  The result is a pure, delicious salt sure to transform any dish."

My son enjoys vegetable gardening and I gave him a Brandywine Pink to try.  The plant was doing great, but tall and while away, it fell.  These tomatoes, being indeterminate, grow very tall and need a lot of staking.  So, even though he may lose the plant he will enjoy the several tomatoes that are on it and are just about ready to eat. (Photo below)

August 1, 2014 (Buffy Sprout)
More reports and photos are coming in from our Brandywine Pink growers.  New to our blog is Buffy Sprout.  Here is her journal:
April 19:  Planted her plant outside in Miracle Grow potting soil.  sprayed with milk to repel deer.
Watered daily - growing like a week!  Put a tomato cage around it for support.
April 20:  The first bloom.
June 7:  The first tiny green tomato.
July 8:  One red tomato to eat.
July 20:  A second red tomato.
Thanks for helping us with our journal Buffy Sprout!
Brandywine Pink grown by Buffy Sprout

August 1 (KittySprout - also on KittySprout's journal)
Brandywine Pink are a new variety for this year. WV Sprout gave me two plants. They seem to be bushier and taller than the WV 63 variety. They are beginning to mature also.

This little tomato was trying to hide. First of season for the Brandywine.

August 10, 2014
We are all struggling with the health of our tomatoes. More on that in a separate post to come in September as we finalize our tomato journal for this year.    Cooler temperatures this year, lots of rain probably are contributing factors.  An interesting article from our county ag agent John Porter is linked here:
Keeping Garden Fertility in Balance

Saturday, April 12, 2014

From the Infant Seat to the Booster Chair: Transplanting, Fertilizing and Hardening Off!

Today's post is written jointly by mamsprout and WV Sprout and covers a lot of topics.  But, spring is here and it is a gorgeous sunny, 80 degrees today.  A wonderful welcome after such a harsh winter.  Lots to do in the next few weeks to get our plants ready to go outdoors.

We have now passed “The First Critical Week” – and are now 6 weeks into our project with successes and failures.  Remember, everything is a learning experience!  Our other sprouts will be updating their journals soon. I saw something great today at Tee Sprout's house.  She has successfully had Cleome sprout in her absence.
Blog reminder.  You may read each member’s journal by clicking on the links on the right column of the blog.  Each member will add to her journal as we continue through the year with this project.  If you have a favorite plant or a favorite author, just continue to read their journal.  Our new posts will focus on workshops and general suggestions on thinning, transplanting, fertilizing, repotting, hardening off and (finally!) planting outdoors.   We have found that additions to posts will not cause an email notification to be sent to you.  But, if you subscribe to the posts and comments (i.e. follow the news feed) then you can receive email updates when a comment is added to someone’s post.  At the bottom of the page, still in the green (not in the brown section where you can subscribe by email), in small black letters it will say Subscribe to: Posts (the word Posts is in red).  When I click on that and add my name and Gmail password I am then subscribed to the Comments also.  Know this is difficult for some – we are working out way through this, too!  Hope you are successful. And we encourage your comments and experiences.

Back to today’s post. 

Our hardiness zone here in West Virginia is 6/6b and our last frost date is May 10.  If you are in another zone, adjust your plantings accordingly.
We observed the first set of leaves (the cotyledons) emerge from the seed.  The next set of leaves to appear are called the first “true” leaves.  Seedlings should be transplanted soon after these appear as when lots of seedlings grow in the same container, the roots intermingle and the seedlings stretch for the light.  If your seeds are sown thinly or in individual containers, or in a single cell in a multi pack, then you can delay the transplanting until there are several sets of true leaves.  (*Note from WV Sprout - mamsprout warned me about doing this too soon, but I was impatient and didn't listen.  I felt sure that my hibiscus were ready to move up - check out my journal to see how tiny those little roots were.)

To transplant, we prepared our soilless mix as we did during Workshop 1 – Sowing our Seeds.  Remember to wet the mix and drain well.  Fill the next size up container to just below the rim.  With our smaller seedlings, like the four o’clocks, we used square 3” black pots. These fit easily into a flat if you have lots of them.   The hyacinth beans “graduated” immediately to a 4” round plastic pot.
Going from our 6 pack starter cells to a 3" black pot (in foreground)

In most cases it is important to transplant to a container only one size larger. Even though you may need to transplant fast growing plants again very soon, your plant will have healthier roots by using graduated containers!  Don’t be in a hurry to put your plant in a large pot hoping that it will grow faster – it won’t! 

Next, GENTLY dig up a clump. One technique is to place your hand over the cell, gripping gently as if picking up a ball; turn the cell upside down; and tip the clump onto the palm of your hand or onto a piece of newspaper on your countertop.  If you have individual seedlings in the cells of a 6 pack, cut the pack apart with scissors and deal with each cell separately.  Another technique is to lift the clump with a spoon or small spatula.

Gently separate the roots by hand, a pencil, a plant label, or other dull object and lay on newspaper.  Scissors, tweezers and knives are not recommended as they can cut the small roots easily! 

Always pick up your seedling by the leaves or underneath the rootball – never by the stem!  If you have multiple small seedlings that are crowded, take a sharp, narrow edged pair of manicure scissors and thin all except the strongest one.  Don't cut through the root clump; cut extra seedlings at soil level. If these extras start growing again, just keep trimming them back.

Make a shallow hole in your mix using your plant label, pencil, end of a bamboo stake, kabob stick or similar object.  The hole should not be deeper than your root.  Very carefully insert your seedling and gently firm the mix around it.  Do not plant too deeply. However, a few plants such as tomatoes may be planted deeper and will form roots along the stems.

Now, bottom watering – we’re all getting to be pros at that.  Watering brings the soil mix into contact with the roots, but it's important to drain well after watering.  We've found it helpful to set our pots on layers of paper towels or newspaper to wick out excess water. 
Either add a new label or add onto your old label the date of transplanting. 

More of kitty sprout's hyacinth bean
ready to go home - graduated to a 4" pot


4 o'clocks ready to untangle from the
6 cell seeding tray
4 o'clocks in new homes

Again – a second critical time!  Roots and maybe some leaves have been bruised and broken.  Place them in bright, but indirect light for the next several days.  NO DIRECT SUN! 

Now your seedlings may look alarmingly sick! Don't worry; they should perk up after a few days.  At this stage you again want to encourage the roots to grow down deeply into your pot forming a nice root ball.  So, hold off on watering until the soil around the roots has dried.  Remember how you could judge by weight when first sowing? This is still a rule of thumb.  And your plants can be allowed to slightly wilt, which is another good indication of needing water.

Continue to place your pots under lights or in bright windows but still do not place in close exposure to hot sun on a window sill.
At 4-6 weeks you can start feeding your seedlings. Check your fertilizer package and use one with equal amounts of Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus.  Although soilless mixes come with some "built in" fertilizer, it dissolves in water so your plants are ready for a little boost - but only a little!  Just as leaves can be burned by the sun, roots can be burned by too much fertilizer.  The best fertilizer to use at this stage is a water-soluble general purpose type. Use a half-strength dilution for the first few weeks, and then switch to full strength.  Substitute the mix instead of water every time you water, from the bottom of course.

As the weather warms we need to think about "hardening off" and getting those babies ready to go outside.  This procedure doesn't take skill--just time, attention, and discipline.  Going from the "nursery" indoor environment to the unprotected natural world is quite a shock, so the trick is to introduce your seedlings gradually to their future homes.  When the morning chill is gone, put your trays or pots outside in a sheltered, shady place out of the wind. If you don't have a cold frame, tuck them into a corner of the house or nestle them under a shrub or tree. Leave them all day but bring inside at night.  Repeat this day care arrangement until night temperature stays above 50 degrees.  Although the seedlings can be planted in the ground at that time, some gardeners wait another week to be sure the weather has settled.

It's graduation time!  Pick a site that meets the needs of your particular plant.  Prepare the soil, breaking up clumps and going down several inches, then gently smooth and level.  Dig a hole a bit wider than the root ball and pour in about a cup of water. When the water has soaked into the ground, gently tip the seedling from the pot and plant at slightly above the level it was in the pot.  Firm the soil around it and water gently with a watering can or hose spray. The seedlings will now droop and scare you out of your wits.  Don't worry.

In a day or two they will start to perk up.

P.S. try to transplant to the outside on a cloudy day or in the evening, and shield the transplants from bright sun by tenting them with sticks and cloth for a few days.

How are our poppies doing?  We’ll give some tips in some of the journals soon.  We’ve found a blog from a wonderful gardener in Massachusetts  and realized some mistakes we’ve made.  So, instead of individually transplanting those that have survived so far we think we will just cut the plastic off the outside of the cells and plant the entire bunch directly into the ground.  The blog is linked above and also on the right hand column of our page.  I've ordered some new Shirley poppy seeds and am handing them out to committee members to sow directly outdoors following Matt's instructions.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Our seeds are Growing!! Workshop #2

Our Horticulture Committee met Thursday, March 27th for our second workshop at WVSprouts home. 

We congregated in WV Sprout's kitchen, armed with computers, iPads and "sprouts" to enjoy an afternoon exchanging tips, tricks, and experiences.  As the afternoon progressed, I observed a bustling room of ladies who were excited, focused and enthusiastic...this project of ours is turning into a learning experience on many levels...Here are some pictures that will explain more than my words can!!

Our tutoring session on "blogging"

Forgetful Sprout's Hyacinth Bean had an accident by the coffee maker :(

Kamsprout's 4-O'Clocks and Hyacinth Beans

4 O'Clocks are Happy!!!

Does anyone know what this is?

Planning the transplant

Lots of transplanting happening here!  Hyacinth Bean and 4 O'Clocks are the first to move to "new homes"!

Building a tee-pee for the Hyacinth Bean--allowing it to "vine"

Specific plant observations:

Hyacinth Bean:  Is growing very well; ranging from 12" to 32" tall. (The shorter plants have more leaves). They are ready to transplant into 4"pots, and a tee-pee is constructed to allow this plant to "vine". (See picture above)

Poppies: The Opium Poppy appears stronger and taller than the Shirley Poppy. Both Poppy's were about 1/2" to 1" tall, and still spindly...not ready for transplanting.

4 O'Clocks: were doing great and were transplanted into 3"pots.

Tips for our new sprouts and transplants:

1. Continue to "bottom water"---drain well, then sit pots on paper-towel or newspaper to soak up excess water (for 30 minutes)

2. Begin to use a water soluble fertilizer (like Miracle Grow for indoor plants).  Mix 7 drops per quart of water in a  container; use this for bottom watering.

Note about our Blog:

We are now organizing our "pages" into separate journals, so our individual sprouts can be followed.  For example, readers can follow my hyacinth bean's journey--seed to seed--same with my Shirley poppy and spider flower, they will all have their own individual "story".

Happy growing!!